Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia) Risk Factors

Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia) Risk Factors

Social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, is a common mental disorder. As many as thirteen percent of people experience some degree of social anxiety during their lifetime. Despite the widespread nature of social phobias, the causes of social anxiety disorder remain unclear.

While social anxiety disorder causes are not fully understood, a wide range of risk factors for social phobia have been identified. The presence of social anxiety disorder risk factors does not mean an individual will necessarily develop the disorder; the presence risk factors indicates that an individual has a slightly higher chance of developing social phobia.

Age, Gender and Social Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety disorders can strike anyone regardless of age or gender, but women tend to exhibit social anxiety symptoms more often than men.

Social anxiety disorder onset is most common in people younger than nineteen. When symptoms of social phobia develop in adulthood, the genesis of the disorder can often be traced back to childhood or adolescence.

Family History and Anxiety Disorders

Social anxiety disorder causes may have a genetic component. The risk of social phobia increases in people whose parents or siblings display social anxiety symptoms.

While a family history of social anxiety could indicate a genetic component of the disorder, it is also possible that family dynamics and attitudes towards social activities are what actually increases one’s risk of developing a social phobia.

Biology and Social Phobia

Biological factors could increase the risk of social anxiety symptoms. Brain imaging studies of social anxiety patients indicate that social phobia sufferers have an overly active amygdala. The amygdala is part of the brain that controls fear responses. In addition to an overactive amygdala, brain imaging also recorded lower than normal activity in the prefrontal cortex of patients with social anxiety disorder. The prefrontal cortex plays a role in social behavior.

Another theory suggests that an imbalance in neurotransmitters causes social anxiety. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals needed for communication between brain cells. Neurotransmitter imbalances are a suspected cause of depression as well as social anxiety. Imbalances in three neurotransmitters — dopamine, GABA and serotonin — have been identified in social phobia patients.

Environment and Social Phobia

Environmental factors can increase the risk of social phobia. People who experience negative social interactions such as bullying, teasing and rejection are thought to be more at risk of developing social phobia. The risk of social anxiety disorder increases if negative social experiences occur regularly. Traumatic events such as sexual abuse may also increase one’s social anxiety disorder risk.

Another theory speculates that people “learn” social phobias by watching the actions of others. A child might learn to be socially anxious, for instance, by watching a parent who exhibits social anxiety disorder symptoms.

Shyness and Social Anxiety Disorder

Some researchers suggest that shyness and social anxiety disorder are connected, and it’s also been proposed that children who are shy or timid may be more likely to develop social anxiety symptoms.

A similar proposal has been put forth concerning the connection between depression and people who are naturally morose or pessimistic.

Overcoming Social Anxiety Disorder

Whatever causes social anxiety disorder, the condition responds well to treatment. Social phobia is often treated with a combination of medication and therapy, much like generalized anxiety disorder. Successful social anxiety disorder treatment can rarely be accomplished without help: professional care greatly improves the chance of overcoming social anxiety disorder.

Social Anxiety Disorder: More than a Fear of Public Speaking

Social Anxiety Disorder Help

Social anxiety disorder, also called social phobia, is characterized by an unreasonable fear of social situations and social interactions. The fear caused by social anxiety disorder is so intense that people may experience panic attacks when faced with social situations.

According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of American, approximately 15 million American adults suffer from social phobia. While social anxiety disorder usually develops in late adolescence or early adulthood, social phobia can occur at any age.

Social Anxiety Disorder Triggers

Social anxiety disorder stems from a fear of being judged or criticized by others. Social phobia sufferers may be afraid that they will make mistakes in public or embarrass themselves. These fears are excessive and often debilitating. The individual may be aware that symptoms of social anxiety are not normal, but is unable to effectively deal with the phobia without social anxiety disorder help.

A person suffering from symptoms of social anxiety disorder may fear either one type of event or multiple social situations. It is more common for social anxiety disorder to apply to multiple social events than a single situation, but cases of social phobias only in a single situation do occur. An intense fear of public speaking, for instant, is a common example of a social phobia.

It’s important to note, however, that merely feeling nervous – or even feeling afraid – about public speaking is not a sign of social anxiety disorder. Many people are nervous when confronted with public speaking, but they are capable of speaking in spite of their fear. A person with social anxiety disorder may have a fear of public speaking so intense that he or she will actively avoid speaking and may suffer panic attacks over the very idea.

Consequences of Social Phobias

The consequences of social anxiety disorder can be devastating. The condition impairs a person’s ability to form meaningful social or romantic relationships.

In its most severe form, a social phobia can make it difficult to leave the house. Low self-esteem, damaged careers and poor quality of life are all social anxiety disorder complications.

Social Anxiety Disorder Help

People who receive treatment for social anxiety disorder often approach doctors for help with other mental conditions. Other anxiety disorders, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder may all be seen alongside social phobia, with the two disorders often exacerbating each other.

Treatment for social anxiety disorder does exist. Medication can help people overcome the symptoms of social anxiety disorder, while therapy helps people learn to change how they think and react in social situations. Social anxiety disorder can be overcome and treated with proper care.

Social Anxiety Disorder Help

There are roughly 20 millions Americans that suffer from some form of social anxiety disorder. The effects of this disorder can be crippling, often leading to social isolation, depression and occasionally suicide. The worst part is that social anxiety typically results in a vicious cycle if help is not sought. If you are suffering from this disorder, here are some ways to help you turn you life around and start fully living again.

Eliminate or Cut Back on Anxiety Inducing Substances

Alcohol can often lead to anxiety and panic attacks especially the day after a night of drinking. It can have negative effects on your nervous system which can make a person feel on edge and can even provoke panic attacks. It’s important to keep this at a minimum to begin reducing your anxiety.

Caffeine is another catalyst for anxiety. If you consume coffee, soft drinks or energy drinks regularly, try to replace those with something more natural and healthy like green tea.

Gradually Expose Yourself To People

If you have been living in relative isolation for an extended period of time because of your social anxiety, then it is important to “get yourself out of your shell”. This is obviously not an easy task at first, but is vital in the recovery process. People tend to avoid social situations because they associate socializing as a negative stimulus. It’s usually not the act of being social that scares the person, it’s the bad emotions that go along with it that causes the person distress.

The trick is to be able to associate socializing as a positive stimulus. Start off slowly by trying to integrate yourself back with an old friend or simply trying to start a conversation with someone you feel comfortable with. Once you have a good experience, you won’t be so hesitant to engage in another social situation down the road. This process will gradually get you back in the swing of dealing with people.

Study How to Effectively Communicate

There are a countless number of books out there that deal with this subject. Learn how to read people’s body language and how to engage in the art of conversation. The more prepared you are for social interaction, the less threatening it will become. This will help build your confidence and aid you in becoming a better speaker.

Seek Professional Help

Most of the time, people can make a positive transition on their own if allowed enough time. However, some circumstances need the help of a psychologist or therapist for recovery. If you feel that you just cannot work through your social anxiety on your own, then find a professional to help you get started.